ORLANDO -- The pants pocket of Nets rookie coach Jason Kidd started vibrating during one of his team’s summer-league games last week. Naturally, Kidd did what normal people do in that situation. He stepped outside the noisy gymnasium to take his phone call.
This, of course, made big news in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Is Kidd taking his job seriously?” screamed the collective cry of Twitter. Doesn’t he understand the importance of observing every second of a summer-league game? As Pat Riley likes to say, there are “diamonds in the rough” to be mined in Orlando and Las Vegas this time of year, especially with the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement kicking in to high gear next season.
Tax penalties galore are in place to socialize the NBA like the 1970s Soviet Union, and here was Kidd stepping outside the machine to answer a call about who knows what — dry cleaning, or a tee time or, as the New York Daily News surmised, Andrei Kirilenko. Mere minutes after the Nets’ summer-league game ended that day, Thursday, news broke of the team’s latest coup. Kirilenko, who passed on a $10million player option with the Minnesota Timberwolves, had agreed to take about $7 million less to join the Nets.
“And now with the strongest Russian player in the NBA we will capture the title together,” said Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian multibillionaire who presumably understands the not-so-subtle differences between the English words “win” and “capture.”
His own rules
Prokhorov knows a thing or two about mining — that’s how he made his first fortune — and, as the story goes, it’s apparently best done without any interference from institutional regulators, and certainly it has nothing to do with summer-league games in the American play lands of Orlando and Las Vegas.
No, in his bid to “capture” the NBA championship from the Heat, Prokhorov is playing the game by his own set of rules. Rule 1: Laugh at the gentlemen’s agreement, otherwise known as the CBA, set in place by the NBA’s rich-guy club to de-tooth its league. Rule 2: Outspend the Americans. Rule 3: There are no other rules.
Put simply, Prokhorov is trying to buy an NBA championship. On Friday in a conference call, Riley called it the “unintended consequences” of the new CBA.
“Economics and basketball … that’s what this is all about,” Riley said. “I have to make decisions based on that.”
But not the Nets.
While Riley and Heat owner Micky Arison are trying to figure out ways to somehow save money in the months before their team’s bid for a three-peat, the Nets are working with a blank check to overthrow the back-to-back defending champions. Never mind Brooklyn’s payroll, which likely will be more than $100 million when the 2013-14 season begins, the team’s estimated luxury tax bill is more than $80 million.
Forget basketball. That’s approaching the kind of sum the Yankees spend on payroll.
Already, NBA executives are crying foul. After word leaked that Kirilenko had agreed to take the Nets’ luxury-tax exception ($3.1 million) — or about three times less than his player option with Minnesota — rumors around the league implied under-the-table spending. One unnamed general manager told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, “There should be a probe. How obvious is it?”